A recent study finds that around 33 per cent Indian adults suffer from insomnia. Moreover, there has been a staggering increase in cases of childhood insomnia over the last few years. PULKIT SHARMA shares tips on how people can overcome this and improve sleep
The silent epidemic of insomnia is invading our lives, triggering a gamut of problems — physical and mental exhaustion, emotional disturbances, diminished productivity, accidents and lifestyle diseases. A recent study which appeared in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care states that around 33 per cent Indian adults suffer from insomnia. Moreover, there has been a staggering increase in the cases of childhood insomnia over the last few years, and this has had an adverse impact on children’s growth and development. We all know that getting around six to eight hours of sound sleep is a must to remain healthy, but a large majority finds it daunting to put this into practice.
The problem usually starts with our desire to stay awake as much as possible. We are always spurred by a load of unfinished business and distractions — demanding projects, tight deadlines, fascinating videos, endless updates on the social media and buzzing smart phones. Under the spell of this constant stimulation, we keep on stretching our waking hours and fighting our need for sleep. Late night coffee and tea are fast becoming a norm because they muffle all signs of slumber.
Over time, such behaviours ruin our inbuilt sleep-wake cycle by keeping us overly aroused during the night, sluggish during the day and slowly insomnia creeps in. Thereafter, it becomes a challenge to fall off to sleep, remain asleep or feel fresh after waking up. This is when insomnia tightens its grip around us. Thankfully, most of us can easily escape from the clutches of insomnia and retrain our minds and bodies to sleep better.
We must remember that our waking life and sleep influence each other and therefore spending our day meaningfully, peacefully and productively allows us to go to bed with a happy and relaxed frame of mind. In this state, there is no resistance to sleep and we drift away into the dreamworld rather swiftly. In other words, a day well-spent brings happy sleep. Therefore, let us make our waking life balanced, generously demarcating spaces for work, leisure, exercise and fun.
A bunch of practices known as sleep hygiene, if followed consistently can improve your sleep. Start by curtailing your daytime naps to 30 minutes, anything longer than that can spoil your sleep at night. Do not consume tea, coffee or alcohol after 5 pm because they can keep your mind stimulated for long. Encourage yourself to relax and instruct your brain to slow down two hours before bedtime. This includes eating a light and easily digestible meal, keeping away from electronic gadgets and television and dimming the lights in your house. You may play some soft and soothing music, read a nice book, chitchat, practice gentle breathing exercises or meditation to utilise this time. If any disturbing thoughts and emotions come up, note them down telling yourself to peruse them the next day. Finally, switch off the lights and lie down on the bed focusing on your breath, allowing yourself to slip into sleep.
Despite doing all this, there will be times when sleep may not come easily. Even then refrain from worrying because that will push your mind and body into hyperarousal making it difficult for you to doze off. You can either continue to lie down, making your breath calm and focusing on it or you can get up and do some light activity till the time you feel sleepy. In any case if you continue to be calm, happy sleep will eventually come.
The writer is clinical psychologist and author of When The Soul Heals